Light at the End of the Tunnel?

The End of Capitalism has Begun. OK it’s the left-wing press in England, but my sympathy and sense of hope is awakened. Only today, I read of farmers blocking the city of Caen and access to the Mont Saint Michel. Instead of causing misery to countless holiday-makers, I would have preferred to see their tractors blocking the supermarkets and perhaps the big banks. I sympathise with their protest, as many farmers face bankruptcy whilst the processors and retailers of meat and milk get ever fatter and greedier.

Several years ago, I did a translation published by a group of supermarket brands about their global strategy of conquest. The attitude is absolutely cynical: put everyone out of business except themselves. As it is with corrupt bankers and multinational corporations.

In 1789, the people of France revolted against the King and the nobles – and today against the snakes in suits who are raping the world. Is it wishful thinking or the beginning of a real shift?

I would be interested in opinions on this piece, because if anything is to change, it has to do so on the basis of clear ideas.

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24 Responses to Light at the End of the Tunnel?

  1. bedwere says:

    What is best for the poor is neither the present system of crony capitalism, where the bankers and other cronies control the markets, nor it is socialism, but the free market, where you and I can voluntarily exchange whatever we want. Regarding crony capitalism vs. free market vs. socialism, I recommend the book The Church and the Market, by Thomas Woods http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0739188003
    See this lecture by the same Woods before the Texas Tech Catholic Student Association https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExAJmlx2S50

  2. ed pacht says:

    The so-called “free market”, unless it is regulated by government will inevitably concentrate wealth in those who are best at extracting a profit, thus making the strong stronger and consequently the weak weaker. Power does tend to corrupt and the strong will ultimately manage to build crony capitalism. Regulation is essential — how much and what form it takes is a matter for discussion, and there needs also to be mechanism for regulating the regulators — but without regulation the “free market” will succumb to human sinfulness and fail to produce a healthy society.

    “Where you and I can voluntarily exchange whatever we want.” Won’t happen. Can’t happen.

    • bedwere says:

      What you call “free-market” is evidently not free. For when there is free exchange of goods and services both parties necessarily benefit, otherwise there wouldn’t be an exchange in the first place. On the contrary, it is through the strong arm of government that the large cronies have written and continue to write regulations to exclude small competitors, who are incapable to comply, that they obtain cheap credit through fraction reserve banking, impose protective tariffs against importation of good from foreign, more efficient producers, obtain subsidies from tax-payers’ money. All this is not “free-market”, sir.

    • Have you ever heard of Distributism? If not, you should look it up.

      • Here is an interesting introduction to Distributism. The problem with Distributism is that no attempt to implement it has ever been stable and lasting. It has all been one big unworkable dream. The essential problem, like with socialism, is human nature. History shows the success and rule of the strongest, cruellest and nastiest, and once in a while those men are beaten in war or strung up from a tree – then follows a nice time like the 1920’s or the 1950’s. Then it all starts again. Perhaps after the next war if it isn’t nuclear…

      • bedwere says:

        Yes, I have. I oppose it inasmuch as its supporters intend to use the arm of the state to impose it on others. Dr. Woods dedicate chapter VI of his book to it. I wouldn’t want to live in a distributist community, but if people enter into one voluntarily, who am I to judge? 😉

      • I think Distributism – like Libertarianism – works better when approached as a loose guide and direction (decentralization) than as an absolute set of dogmas. No society is going to be perfect, but there are certain good ideas one can take and apply from the Distributist ideal.

      • bedwere says:

        Libertarianism is one and only one thing: the non-aggression principle. Hence it is theoretically possible for those of the distributist persuasion to enter into a voluntary contract which binds them to live according to distributist principles. If a party wants to pull out, he would have to pay a penalty (post a bond in advance). That would be perfectly compatible with libertarian principles. Of course, Big Brother won’t let that happen.

  3. ed pacht says:

    Do both parties necessarily benefit? Have you never heard of fraud or deceptive advertising? Have you yourself never been cheated? I most assuredly have been. What you call free is not free either, sir. Without regulation the cheaters will come out on top.

    • bedwere says:

      Precisely. The free market does not guarantee the absence of evil doers who cheat, steal, or murder. The only regulation needed is precisely against violators of the non-aggression principle.

      • ed pacht says:

        Since the aggressive impulse seems firmly ingrained in fallen humanity, that requires a great deal of regulation, probably more than I would be willing to see. The regulating systems in society (including, but not limited to government) cannot prevent such abuses, but can indeed soften their impact. Any human endeavor will ultimately run up against human nature, and the strong will ultimately prevail unless society is extremely vigilant and, yes, proactive in regulations which can be only approximate and temporary.

        This is why no ideologically ‘pure’ economic system has ever worked, or can ever work, not mercantilism, not capitalism, not socialism, not distributism, nor any other consistent system, including any of the various contradictory systems calling themselves free market. The best we can do is to muddle along with constant vigilance and constant corrections.

        The poor will always be with us, as the Master said, but he made it clear that we are to see Him in the poor and deprived and act accordingly.

      • bedwere says:

        Recourse to violence is only justified when fraud, theft, or murder occur. All the rest, and especially regulations to establish price controls, minimum wages, monopolies, tariffs, obligatory insurances, etc., etc. are always negative and hurt especially the poor (again, see Woods’s book). It is the argument of the apologists of the state to bring up the need of security to deprive the people of the freedom to engage in consensual (albeit immoral sometimes) activity. On the contrary, although the free-market is not perfect, since it is made of men and not angles, it provides self-regulatory instruments to screen out undesirable (violent) behavior. For example, Ebay has developed systems to establish credibility for sellers, to resolve disputes, and it even provides refunds. Yet people all around the world, from different cultures and jurisdictions, engage in voluntary exchange without the supervision of Big Brother (or rather in spite of).

  4. bedwere says:

    I would recommend also the articles of the late Fr. James A. Sadowsky, S.J., professor of philosophy at Fordham who used to celebrate the TLM.
    He gives a unique Catholic – anarcho-capitalist perspective to the problem
    http://www.anthonyflood.com/sadowsky.htm

    For an interesting video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIZSVWEgTU8

  5. Stephen K says:

    I’ve been considering the responses in this thread. Clearly we all come to different conclusions or positions about anything, including the economic arrangements we think work best. The notion of personal freedom is a very precious one, that we would be right to feel protective about – (in religious faith no less!). Libertarianism purports to have it as its central foundation.

    But we have to be careful about our adjectives. The “free market” sounds nice, but it is a mirage on two counts. Firstly, markets are environments in which people operate, and they themselves will only have the character of the participants; by themselves, markets do not have any intentions, goals, or cares, and consequently cannot be said to consider the interests of anyone who cannot participate or whose participation is limited in comparison with others’. Secondly, participants are only free if they have the economic power (i.e. the exchangeable asset value) to get what they want when they want it. A participant’s ‘freedom’ is in direct proportion to their economic power and the power is notoriously unequal and in many cases non-existent. Though equality itself may not be in every case necessary or even possible, imbalances of power lead, as history shows us time and time again, to ills not benefits. The importance of countervailing economic power gave impetus to the rise of organised labour, or what could be called basic redistributist principles, without which many important social and economic improvements would not have occurred when they did in the measure we now know them: reasonable, limited working hours – basic living wages – occupational health and safety regulation – universal health cover or protection – public education – public hospitals – and many more.

    The history of modern democratic taxation is in fact no less than the history of anti-laissez-faire in such matters, since it is only by such mechanisms that the economically less-powerful have gained access to what we generally think now are some of the basic elements of civilised society. Free exchanges are only really possible when the parties to them have proportionate power and value. Had these things been left exclusively to the libertarian notion of not interfering with the conditions brought about by greedy human nature or structural inequalities, they would not be available to as many as they are, not counting those to whom they remain unavailable.

    Thirdly, it appears simply not true that the so-called “free market” is unregulated, in any kind of circumstance, and not least because in some respects the banks and financial institutions and monopolistic or oligopolistic corporate enterprises, which influence nation-state government so pervasively, effectively regulate themselves for the maintenance of their advantaged status quo.

    Upon reflection, I am becoming inclined to think that disputes in this subject are, or should be, less to do with an opposition between ‘capitalism’ and socialism – since socialism appears historically to have mainly taken the form of State, as opposed to private, capitalism – and more to do with the opposition between the neoliberal free market theorism which seems either happy to tolerate the growth of economic and therefore political inequality or attached to the myth that its free utopia could ever exist without corrective restraints on the one hand, and a radical and holistic approach to economic and social organisation that is founded on a notion that we are all worthy of the dignity that comes from empowerment and benefits that enable us to do good things to and for each other.

    I’m with ed pacht on this one, and must reject bedwere’s proposition.

    • ed pacht says:

      I’m not entirely with Stephen either. How does one establish and maintain “a radical and holistic approach to economic and social organisation that is founded on a notion that we are all worthy of the dignity that comes from empowerment and benefits that enable us to do good things to and for each other”? I can’t envision any way of accomplishing that without some kind of repressive system. I don’t believe any ideology can successfully support a workable and just economy. The only humanly workable “system” is a constant tinkering with how things work, regulating, not by a theoretically sound program, but by a pragmatic vigilance that will step in to bring about correction when correction is needed. The economy will never operate smoothly as long as human beings are operating it.

      I do agree with Stephen’s critique of the so-called “free market” which is never free but I would make similar criticisms of socialism (either the ‘state capitalist’ variety or some ideologically ‘pure’ form) and of every other system proposed or attempted. None of them can work. As in most areas of life all we can do is the best we can, attempting after the fact to rectify our failures, again, as best we can.

    • bedwere says:

      As I said, to be libertarian is to stick to the non-aggression principle. Period. All the rest, is muddling the water.

      Also being for the free-market and being libertarian is not the same thing, but I don’t want to enter into a long digression.

      I share the same concern for the poor as anybody else here, but it is in the free-market that the poor gain most. The free market gave washers to women, cars to everybody, cheap intercontinental flights! Even the most destitute person, if not incapacitated, can exchange his labor for goods on the free-market. Or he may beg. Empirically, we know that charitable behavior is especially frequent in times of prosperity. During the Reagan years charities had a tremendous expansion in donations (see Woods).

      The poor have gained access to basic elements of civilized society in spite of taxation: the more a service/good is unregulated the quicker it becomes available even to the lowest. Just think of cell-phones. Isn’t it amazing that the beggars can afford one? On the contrary, think of health-care, so regulated by government and thus expensive that even the middle class has problem keeping up.

      Finally, what we have today is not, I repeat not, the free-market. It is a system of cronies, closer to Mussolini’s ideas of corporativism, where the state (influenced by some large corporations and unions) controls and regulates, although doesn’t own all the rest, since it has no need for it.

      • ed pacht says:

        … and what produced all the wonders you list is not, I repeat not, the free-market or anything approaching it. We muddle along, sometimes with better effect, sometimes with worse, and make the best approximation we are able to make, but in the long run any ideological approach of any nature taken too far removes the necessary flexibility from the economy and inevitably develops into some form of oppressiveness, of which this “cronyism” is a prime example.

        Your “non-aggression principle” is among the most unrealistic and unworkable ideas afloat, inasmuch as aggression is a central feature of all human history, and the necessity to keep it in check is the primary purpose of government.

      • bedwere says:

        The freer the market, the larger the prosperity (e.g., Switzerland vs. Soviet Union). There will all be violation of the non-aggression principle. Beside, people follow or don’t follow it, but that doesn’t change the reality of it.
        Government, in the sense of monopoly of force and ultimate decision making cannot possibly fulfill the purpose of keeping aggression in check. On the contrary, they are based on the “divide et impera” principle, creating divisions among the various group and setting one against the others. I recommend the illuminating work of Hans Hermann Hoppe, A Short History of Man: Progress and Decline/

      • Perhaps the size of the state is also a factor? When a nation is so large and is home to so many people with so many cultures and conflicting ideas (e.g. in the US) a centralized government must by necessity be authoritarian and machine-like, with a chasm of difference between it and those it supposedly represents.

        I a nation like Switzerland this is less of an issue.

      • bedwere says:

        Absolutely right!

  6. Jim of Olym says:

    I’ve said it before here but it was not picked up by anyone: The USA could well be divided amongst several nations.and probably should be.

    • bedwere says:

      A peaceful dissolution would be most welcome.

      • ed pacht says:

        and, yes, I’ve often said that the US has become much too big for its own good, and a peaceful and well-thought-out division just might be a good thing. However, done hastily, it could be a real disaster.

      • bedwere says:

        Hoppe gave a lesson on the topic of how to organize it. Needless to say, it is a very long shot.
        If interested, Google hoppe strategy secession

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